A pioneering Lake District apprenticeship scheme aimed at stemming the decline in rural and heritage skills has seen its protégés clinch coveted jobs.
Of the eight who became the first Lake District National Park Fell Futures intake, seven have achieved full-time employment or are working for the next level of qualifications.
The vision to coach the next generation of countryside workers found national acclaim when the scheme was runner-up in the prestigious Apprenticeship Awards 2013.
Running since September 2012, it is a partnership between the LDNP, United Utilities, Forestry Commission, National Trust and Environment Agency, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.
With jobs now guaranteed in key conservation organisations, the apprentices operated across the national park, putting in hundreds of days’ work on footpaths, bridges, boundaries, woodlands, rivers and habitats.
They also attended Newton Rigg College at Penrith to complete intermediate and advanced level diplomas in environmental conservation.
Apprenticeship supervisor Matt Eaves said as the young people gained invaluable experience, partner organisations benefited from extra help from ‘a very dedicated, enthusiastic and eager to learn group’.
He added: “Positions have been found with LDNP, South Lakeland District Council, Lakes Tree Surgeons and BAE systems and three are carrying on with their studies.
“They have learned a raft of skills, including forestry management, tree planting, natural river bank stabilisation, dry stone walling, fencing, hedge planting and laying and fell path construction.
Mike Farrell, fisheries officer with the Environment Agency, said: “It has been an absolute pleasure working alongside them and we really would not have been able to deliver our projects to such a high standard without their help and dedication.”
The team worked for nationally recognised qualifications in chainsaw operations, brush cutting, herbicides, first aid, working near water, trailers, diggers and dumpers.
The process is now underway to recruit the next round for seven apprentices who start training in April.